Straight-up: It’s a Better Life in Ecuador

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It’s 5.00 p.m. on Monday afternoon. Time to start thinking about winding down the work day and getting ready to crawl home in rush hour traffic, then spending a few hours at home hopefully relaxing before going to bed… and getting ready to do it all over again on Tuesday.

Except I don’t live that life anymore. Instead, on this lovely afternoon, I find myself sitting with my wife on the front porch of a beautiful hacienda a short distance from Cuenca, Ecuador. We’re enjoying a bottle of wine together, looking out at drop-dead gorgeous landscapes truly too beautiful to describe, and waiting to toast the sunset.

The surrounding hills are impossibly green. In the distance a few cows are grazing, and the only sound I hear is that of my own thoughts. How do I find myself in the midst of this paradise so far removed from my previous world?

It started when my wife, Cynthia, and I decided to stop chasing rainbows. Our lives had been devoted to seeking that elusive pot of gold promised to all who stay the course and do the “right thing.” Society provides a well-marked road with signs saying “Keep pushing,” “You can do it,” and “Don’t give up.”

And it seemed we were well on our way to making our dreams come true. We had a beautiful home, successful careers, and investments that were propelling us towards our retirement goals.

Then the economic tsunami hit and our world turned upside down. We were both unceremoniously downsized, and we quickly learned that lucrative employment opportunities for folks in their 50s had vanished. Our portfolio went on a crash diet and was but a shadow of its former healthy self.

What to do? The conventional viewpoint was to forge ahead. But we weren’t getting any younger, and the pot of gold seemed farther away than ever. What if we hung in there and things still didn’t work out? When we realized that every year we have left is our best year, we chose to seek a different path that would allow us to start living now.

Moving abroad seemed the best alternative. Our research turned up Ecuador, a country we knew little about and couldn’t have pinpointed on a map. About Cuenca, a mid-sized city in the southern highlands, all we knew was that we couldn’t pronounce it.

Still, Cuenca seemed to offer what we were seeking: A low cost of living, a comfortable climate and close proximity to our family.

We booked a “look-see” trip and found the city to be even better than we had imagined… So much so that a year later we got off a plane and began our new adventure in Cuenca. That was two and a half years ago.

Today, we enjoy a delightful lifestyle on a modest monthly budget—excluding travel, we spend less than $2,000 a month. We rent a luxurious two-story penthouse apartment, fill vases with fresh flowers, eat out several times a week, and enjoy regular massages and mani-pedis.

We don’t have to travel too far to visit our family when we want to (more important now than ever, with two young grandchildren and a third due in January). Our daughter, just outside Manhattan, is a six-and-a-half hour non-stop flight away, and it’s easy to visit our son and his growing family in North Carolina as well.

The climate more than lives up to our expectations—Cynthia and I grew up with stifling humidity in the South…and roasted in Las Vegas for four years, but Cuenca’s weather is always temperate and pleasant.

We are blessed with wonderful friends, and now pursue our personal interests like yoga and painting instead of continuing to chase the almighty dollar. I am so thankful that we didn’t allow fear and complacency to hold us back.

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